Climatic Change

, Volume 127, Issue 1, pp 93–105 | Cite as

Integrated assessment of smallholder farming’s vulnerability to drought in the Brazilian Semi-arid: a case study in Ceará

  • Diego Pereira LindosoEmail author
  • Juliana Dalboni Rocha
  • Nathan Debortoli
  • Izabel Ibiapina Parente
  • Flávio Eiró
  • Marcel Bursztyn
  • Saulo Rodrigues-Filho


Smallholder farming is among the most vulnerable sectors due to its great social and economic sensitivity. Despite future climate change, current climate variability is already an issue of concern that justifies adaptation efforts. In Brazil, the Semi-Arid Region is a climate hotspot, well known for both historic socioeconomic setbacks, and agriculture failures caused by dry spells and severe droughts. In 2010, the Brazilian government enacted the National Policy on Climate Change, which states as one of its key goals the identification of vulnerabilities and the adoption of adequate measures of adaptation to climate change. The improvement of vulnerability assessment tools is a response to the growing demand of decision makers for regular information and indicators with high spatial and temporal resolution. This article aims at undertaking a comparative assessment of smallholder farming’s vulnerability to droughts. An integrated assessment system has been developed and applied to seven municipalities located in the Brazilian Semi-Arid Region (within the State of Ceará). Results show regional vulnerability contrasts driven by institutional and socioeconomic factors, beyond climatic stressors.


Adaptive Capacity Standardize Precipitation Index Vulnerability Index Smallholder Farming Palmer Drought Severity Index 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors wish to express their gratitude to Suely Salgueiro Chacon, Cristine Viana, and two anonymous reviewers and editors for the comments on an earlier version. Special thanks to Joana Araújo Maria for assistance and encouragement. The work reported here was undertaken within the Brazilian Research Network on Global Climate Change, supported by the Brazilian Ministry of Science and Technology.

Supplementary material

10584_2014_1116_MOESM1_ESM.docx (92 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 91 kb)


  1. Adger NW (2006) Vulnerability. Glob Environ Chang 16:268–281Google Scholar
  2. Adger W, Dessai S, Goulden M et al (2009) Are there social limits to adaptation to climate change? Clim Chang 93:335–354CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alcamo J, Acosta-Michlik L, Carius A, Eierdanz F, Klein R, Krömker D, Tänzler D (2008) A new approach to quantifying and comparing vulnerability to drought. Reg Environ Chang 8(4):137–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bellon M, Hodson D, Hellin J (2011) Assessing the vulnerability of traditional maize seed systems in Mexico to climate change. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 108:13432–13437CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Birkmann J (2007) Risk and vulnerability indicators at different scales: applicability, usefulness and policy implications. Environ Hazards 7(1):20–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bohle HG, Downing TE, Watts MJ (1994) Climate change and social vulnerability: toward a sociology and geography of food insecurity. Glob Environ Chang 4(1):37–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brasil (2005) Análise da vulnerabilidade da população brasileira aos impactos sanitários das mudanças climáticas. Ministério da Ciência e Tecnologia (MCT)Google Scholar
  8. Brooks N, Adger WN, Kelly PM (2005) The determinants of vulnerability and adaptive capacity at the national level and the implications for adaptation. Glob Environ Chang 15(2):151–163CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Byun HR, Wilhite D (1999) Objective quantification of drought severity and duration. J Clim 12:2747CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. CEDEPLAR, FIOCRUZ (2009) Mudanças climáticas, migrações e saúde: cenários para o Nordeste brasileiro: 2000–2050. Cedeplar; Fiocruz, Belo HorizonteGoogle Scholar
  11. CPTEC (2010) Centro de Previsão de Tempo e Previsão Climática- Center for Weather Forecasts and Climate Studies. Accessed 18 Sept 2010
  12. Cutter S (2008) Temporal and spatial changes in social vulnerability to natural hazards. Proc Natl Acad Sci 105:2301–2306CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. DIEESE (2008) Estatísticas do meio rural. Ministério do Desenvolvimento Agrário (MDA). 14 Sept 2011
  14. Dietz T, Ostrom E, Stern P (2003) The struggle to govern the commons. Science (New York, NY) 302:1907–1912CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Diffenbaugh N, Giorgi F, Raymond L, Bi X (2007) Indicators of 21st century socioclimatic exposure. Proc Natl Acad Sci 104:20195–20198CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dovers S (2009) Normalizing adaptation. Glob Environ Chang 19:4–6CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dubreuil V (1997) La sécheresse dans la France de l’Ouest: une contrainte climatique trop souvent oubliée. Sécheresse 8:47–55Google Scholar
  18. Dubreuil V (2005) Un risque climatique à géographie variable: la sécheresse dans la France de l’ouest. Risques Clim 1:147–173Google Scholar
  19. Eakin H, Lemos MC (2010) Institutions and change: the challenge of building adaptive capacity in Latin America. Glob Environ Chang 20:1–3CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Finan T, Nelson D (2001) Making rain, making roads, making do: public and private adaptations to drought in Ceará, Northeast Brazil. Clim Res 19:97–108CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Ford JD, Smit B, Wandel J, MacDonald J (2006) Vulnerability to climate change in Igloolik, Nunavut: what we can learn from the past and present. Polar Record 42(221):127–138Google Scholar
  22. Ford J, Smith T, Berrang-Ford L et al (2010) Case study and analogue methodologies in climate change vulnerability research. WIREs Clim Chang 1:374–392CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Fraser EDG, Dougill AJ, Hubacek K et al (2011) Assessing vulnerability to climate change in dryland livelihood systems: conceptual challenges and interdisciplinary solutions. Ecol Soc 16:3Google Scholar
  24. FUNCEME (2011) Fundação Cearense de Metereologia e Recursos Hídricos—Water Resources Foundation from Ceará. Accessed 12 Dec 2010
  25. Gaiser T, Ferreira GR, Stahr K (2003) General view of the WAVES program. In: Global change and regional impacts: water availability and vulnerability of ecosystems and society in the semiarid northeast of Brazil. Springer, BerlinCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gallopín GC (2006) Linkages between vulnerability, resilience, and adaptive capacity. Glob Environ Chan Hum policy Dimens 16(3):293–303CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gregory S (1986) The climatology of drought. Geography 71:97–104Google Scholar
  28. Hahn MB, Riederer AM, Foster SO (2009) The Livelihood Vulnerability Index: a pragmatic approach to assessing risks from climate variability and change—a case study in Mozambique. Glob Environ Chang 19(1):74–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Holling CS, Meffe GK (1996) Command and control and the pathology of natural resource management. Conserv Biol 10:328–337CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. IBGE (2006) Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatísticas—Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics. Censo Agropecuário 2006. Accessed 14 Sept 2011
  31. INMET (2010) Instituto Nacional de Meteorologia—National Institute of Meteorology. Accessed 18 Sept 2010
  32. IPCC (2007) In: Core Writing Team, Pachauri RK, Reisinger A (eds) Climate change 2007: synthesis report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. WMO, IPCC Secretariat, GenevaGoogle Scholar
  33. Jones L, Boyd E (2011) Exploring social barriers to adaptation: insights from Western Nepal. Glob Environ Chang 21:1262–1274CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Krol MS, Bronstert A (2007) Regional integrated modelling of climate change impacts on natural resources and resource usage in semi-arid Northeast Brazil. Environ Model Softw 22:259–268CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lemos M, Finan T, Fox R, Nelson D, Tucker J (2002) The use of seasonal climate forecasting in policymaking: lessons from Northeast Brazil. Clim Chang 55:479–507CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lobell DB, Banziger M, Magorokosho C et al (2011) Nonlinear heat effects on African maize as evidenced by historical yield trials. Nat Clim Chang 1:42–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lonergan S (1998) The role of environmental degradation in population displacement. Environ Chang Secur Proj Rep 4:5–15Google Scholar
  38. Magalhães A, Glantz MH (1992) Socioeconomic impacts of climate variations and policy responses in Brazil. Esquel Brasil Foundation, BrasiliaGoogle Scholar
  39. Magalhães A, Rebouças O (1988) Introduction: drought as a policy and planning issue in Northeast Brazil. In: The impact of climatic variations on agriculture. Kluwer Academic Publishers, DordrechtGoogle Scholar
  40. Makurira H, Savenije H, Uhlenbrook S et al (2011) The effect of system innovations on water productivity in subsistence rainfed agricultural systems in semi-arid Tanzania. Agric Water Manag 98:1696–1703CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Marengo J (2007) Caracterização do clima no Século XX e Cenários Climáticos no Brasil e na América do Sul para o Século XXI derivados dos Modelos Globais de Clima do IPCC. CPTEC/INPEGoogle Scholar
  42. Marengo J, Jones R, Alves LM, Valverde MC (2009) Future change of temperature and precipitation extremes in South America as derived from the PRECIS regional climate modeling system. Int J Climatol J R Meteorol Soc 29:2241–2255CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Marengo J et al (2010) Future change of climate in South America in the late twenty-first century: intercomparison of scenarios from three regional climate models. Clim Dyn 35:1073–1097CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. McKee TB, Doesken NJ, Kleist J (1993) The relationship of drought frequency and duration to time scales. In: Proceedings of the 8th Conference of Applied Climatology. Anaheim, CA. American Meterological Society, Boston, pp 179–184Google Scholar
  45. Morton J (2007) The impact of climate change on smallholder and subsistence agriculture. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 104:19680–19685CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Mueller V, Osgood D (2009) Long-term impacts of droughts on labour markets in developing countries: evidence from Brazil. J Dev Stud 45:1651–1662. doi: 10.1080/00220380902935865 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. O’Brien K, Leichenko R, Kelkar U, Venema H, Aandahl G, Tompkins H, Javed A, Bhadwa S, Barg S, Nygaard L, West J (2004) Mapping vulnerability to multiple stressors: climate change and globalization in India. Glob Environ Chang 14(4):303–313CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Palmer W (1965) Meteorological drought. U.S. Dept. of Commerce Weather Bureau; For sale by the Supt. of Docs. U.S. G.P.O., WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  49. Parry M (2009) Overshoot, adapt and recover. Nature 458:1102–1103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Pinter L, Hardi P, Bartelmus P (2005) Sustainable development indicators: proposals for the way forward. International Institute for Sustainable Development, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  51. Rooy MP (1965) A rainfall anomaly index independent of time and space. Notos 14:43–48Google Scholar
  52. Rosenzweig C, Hillel D (2008) Climate variability and the global harvest impacts of El Nino and other oscillations on agro-ecosystems. Oxford University Press, USAGoogle Scholar
  53. Rovere E, Avzaradel AC, Monteiro J (2009) Potential synergy between adaptation and mitigation strategies: production of vegetable oils and biodiesel in northeastern Brazil. Clim Res 40:233–239CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Schipper E (2006) Conceptual history of adaptation in the UNFCCC process. Rev Eur Commun Int Environm Law 15:82–92CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Smit B, Wandel J (2006) Adaptation, adaptive capacity and vulnerability. Glob Environ Chang Hum Policy Dimens 16:282CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Smit B, Burton I, Klein RJ, Wandel J (2000) An anatomy of adaptation to climate change and variability. Clim Chang 45:223–251CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Smithers J, Smit B (1997) Human adaptation to climatic variability and change. Glob Environ Chang 7:129–146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Sun L, Li H, Ward MN (2007) Climate variability and corn yields in semiarid Ceará, Brazil. J Appl Meteorol Climatol 46:226–240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Thornthwaite CW (1948) An approach toward a rational classification of climate. Geogr Rev 38:55–94. doi: 10.2307/210739 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Toni F, Holanda E (2008) The effects of land tenure on vulnerability to droughts in Northeastern Brazil. Glob Environ Chang 18:575–582CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Torresan S, Critto A, Valle MD, Harvey N, Marcomini A (2008) Assessing coastal vulnerability to climate change: comparing segmentation at global and regional scales. Sustain Sci 3(1):45–65CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Turner B, Kasperson R, Matson P et al (2003) A framework for vulnerability analysis in sustainability science. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 100:8074–8079CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. UNDP (2004) Reducing disaster risk: a challenge for development. United Nations Development Programme Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  64. Villa M (2000) Vida e morte no sertão: história das secas no Nordeste nos séculos XIX e XX. Editora Atica, São PauloGoogle Scholar
  65. Vincent K (2007) Uncertainty in adaptive capacity and the importance of scale. Glob Environ Chang Hum Policy Dimens 17:12–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Wilhite D (1996) Reducing the impacts of drought: progress toward risk management. In: Climate variability, climate change, and social vulnerability in the semi-arid tropics. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Diego Pereira Lindoso
    • 1
    Email author
  • Juliana Dalboni Rocha
    • 1
  • Nathan Debortoli
    • 1
  • Izabel Ibiapina Parente
    • 2
  • Flávio Eiró
    • 3
  • Marcel Bursztyn
    • 1
  • Saulo Rodrigues-Filho
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Sustainable DevelopmentUniversity of BrasiliaBrasíliaBrazil
  2. 2.Anthropology DepartmentUniversity of BrasiliaBrasíliaBrazil
  3. 3.Centre Maurice HalbwachsÉcole des Hautes Études en Sciences SocialesParisFrance

Personalised recommendations